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> Traditionally, most journals were published by non-profit scientific societies. But when journals shifted from print to online digital formats, those societies couldn't afford the cost of the equipment needed to make the switch. Instead, they sold their journals to large, for-profit publishers

wait, what

I can't figure out how it would be possible that shifting from physical paper to online hosting could be more expensive

I can't figure out how it would be possible that shifting from physical paper to online hosting could be more expensive

Developing and hosting something like JSTOR in the early to mid 90's was no where near as cheap and easy as it might be today (and let's face it even today it isn't completely trivial). Doubly so if you had no staff with the relevant skills and had to do everything via consultants.

That it was expensive in the mid 90's is no reason for it to be expensive today. Plenty of entities would host that data for free.

No, but it does explain why the traditional publishing societies didn't do it themselves back in the day and instead had to rely on for-profit entities.

Cost is half of it. The other half was very resistant. I am told that when my office started going digital in the late 80's there was a lot of turmoil and it split the organization. That attributed greatly to a period where we had 3 presidents for a year. Digitization won of course.

We sold our journal I think for two reasons. The first was to digitize them. We have a large electronic database that we are still not completely finished converting from microfiche. We've been working on it since the late 80s. The second was time commitment. We are small. 10-15 people on average. Only two real developers. The hosting commitment was daunting at the time.

Honestly, I don't know the whole story. I've only been around here for a few years.

I don't buy this. The real issue is prestige. Many journals use a large publisher for their brand name. As schools themselves manage to establish significant international brand awareness, they no longer need this service. There is currently no online/open access platform with academic prestige--because that can only come with time and a track record of proper review and rejection. When the larger players come together and form or use such a body, the smaller players will be able to migrate to it.

I think the switching costs are there

Especially if you have no domain knowledge in running a paywalled website, you could end up getting charged an insane amount of money by some consultants to set it up for you.

Based on a couple of years working for an academic publishers, I'd guess commonly it's lack of domain knowledge + switching cost + switching of mental models + sunk equipment costs. Most are very small, with very established ways of working; I found it incredibly frustrating at the time that my employer wouldn't even consider even minor shifts away from what seemed an enormously wasteful print model, it seemed utterly ridiculous at the time, but with some objectivity I find it completely understandable (still daft, and I'm glad to be out of the sector, but understandable)

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